A Navy official on Friday said it could still send an aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait in spite of recent military advances by China that could heighten the threat posed to U.S. warships.
“We don’t really see any kind of limitation on whatever type of ship could pass through those waters,” Admiral John Richardson, who oversees naval operations, told reporters in Tokyo Friday.
Three ships were sent through the strategic strait in 2018, though a warship has not traversed the waterway separating Taiwan from mainland China in over a decade. China has modernized its missiles designed to hit enemy ships in the last 10 years.
“We see the Taiwan Strait as another (stretch of) international waters, so that’s why we do the transits,” Richardson said.
A U.S. official confirmed to Reuters this week that China’s intentions toward Taiwan, which it considers part of its territory, were being closely monitored as it continues to advance its military technology.
While U.S. policy officially recognizes Taiwan as part of China, the government has unofficial ties to the Taiwanese government and provides various forms of assistance to the island, which has remained a point of contention with Beijing. The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency said in a report that Taiwan is the “primary driver” for China’s push to modernize its military.
Richardson told reporters he recently told his Chinese counterparts that the U.S. would oppose any unilateral actions by Beijing or Taipei and that China should adhere to international law concerning navigation in international waters.
The request follows an October incident in which a Chinese destroyer forced a U.S. ship to change course in the South China Sea, which Beijing considers its own territory.
China also rebuked Washington after a U.S. guided-missile destroyer sailed within 12 miles of a Chinese-occupied island in the area earlier this month.
“We should not see each other as a threatening presence in these waters,” Richardson said.